Different managers employ distinctly different management styles, ranging from relatively hands-off, facilitative styles to autocratic, micromanaging styles. Managers can also employ different motivational strategies and techniques to boost employee performance or accomplish internal change. Transformational and transactional leadership are polar opposites when it comes to the underlying theories of management and motivation. Understanding the difference between transformational and transactional leadership is crucial for anyone pursuing a career in management.
Transactional leadership styles are more concerned with maintaining the normal flow of operations. Transactional leadership can be described as “keeping the ship afloat.” Transactional leaders use disciplinary power and an array of incentives to motivate employees to perform at their best. The term “transactional” refers to the fact that this type of leader essentially motivates subordinates by exchanging rewards for performance. A transactional leader generally does not look ahead in strategically guiding an organization to a position of market leadership; instead, these managers are solely concerned with making sure everything flows smoothly today.
A transformational leader goes beyond managing day-to-day operations and crafts strategies for taking his company, department or work team to the next level of performance and success. Transformational leadership styles focus on team-building, motivation and collaboration with employees at different levels of an organization to accomplish change for the better. Transformational leaders set goals and incentives to push their subordinates to higher performance levels, while providing opportunities for personal and professional growth for each employee.
Both leadership styles are needed for guiding an organization to success. Transactional leaders provide distinct advantages through their abilities to address small operational details quickly. Transactional leaders handle all the details that come together to build a strong reputation in the marketplace, while keeping employees productive on the front line. Transformational leadership styles are crucial to the strategic development of a small business. Small businesses with transformational leaders at the helm shoot for ambitious goals, and can they achieve rapid success through the vision and team-building skills of the leader.
Different management styles are best suited to different situations. When it comes to front-line supervisors of minimum-wage employees, for example, a transactional leadership style can be more effective. Shift supervisors at a fast food restaurant will be much more effective if they are concerned with ensuring all of the various stations run smoothly, rather than spending their time thinking up better ways to serve hamburgers. On the other hand, CEOs or sales managers can be more effective if they are transformational leaders. Executive managers need the ability to design and communicate grand strategic missions, passing the missions down to transactional leaders for implementation of the details.